Nintendo’s DS managed to establish itself as a platform for point and click adventure/puzzle games that simply couldn’t be done on any other platform at the time. With Nintendo’s 3DS the output of such titles has been more restrained perhaps due to the system so far having more ‘core’ gamers who wouldn’t usually buy such games. Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Frozen City relies on quirky characters and its steampunk atmosphere to distinguish itself from many of the other similarly styled games released on Nintendo portables for the last six years.
The game kicks off with Holmes and Watson being frozen inside their manor. Upon realising that the whole of London is about to be completely frozen the duo decide to investigate the incredibly convoluted scenario which has triggered this big freeze. There is a degree of knowing absurdity as characters communicate with each other throughout the game, never becoming too bogged down by the story as players collect clues, interrogate suspects and solve puzzles.
Exploring the environments in the game plays very much like a point and click adventure. The top screen displays the area while the bottom screen is used as a trackpad on which swiping the stylus across will produce a cursor in the equivalent position on the top screen. In order to examine various objects you must rest the cursor on said item until the pointer changes and triggers an event whether it be speaking to someone, opening a drawer or initiating a puzzle. To travel to other rooms you simply open the map up and tap where you wish to go.
Puzzles will be very familiar to anyone who has played any of the avalanche of puzzle titles on the original DS. There’s the usual array of sorting, twisting and the occasional environmental puzzle making use of the items you find while exploring. It’s difficult to say how hard each individual player will find these puzzles but it does take a while before anything particularly challenging appears. Anyone familiar with the Professor Layton series should have little difficulty breezing through the majority of the game but those who aren’t familiar with the genre may take a while to click into the logic in place.
While the game’s controls are fine normally they do become fiddly more often than would be ideal. Thanks to the icons on the touch screen it’s very easy to perform an action or cancel out of something you were doing as there’s no distinction between dragging over something and simply clicking the icon which can be annoying during puzzles which require you to rearrange various items. Another minor problem is the lack of any graphical reactions when using menus which sometimes make the navigation through menus feel less responsive than they are.
There’s no reward or even a scoring system to encourage engaging with the puzzles and completing them quickly. For the occasional difficult challenge there is a fairly useless hint system and an option to skip the puzzle if you just get frustrated with it. However you will have to wait for a meter to fill in order to access this particular function which is excruciatingly slow, so chances are that you will actually solve the puzzle before that option becomes available through trial and error.
The artwork illustrating the characters and environments do have a degree of charm but unfortunately remain static outside of cutscenes where even then they appear to be intentionally clunky. The environments are atmospheric and nicely drawn and would be more interesting if players had a greater degree of exploration. Turning the 3D effect on creates a cardboard cut-out effect when zooming in and out of certain locations. The soundtrack does have a creaky charm to it which does add a little to the atmosphere of the game. Overall the game is presented quite well but could have done with a little more polish.
Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Frozen City is a game that does have charm and a kookiness in its presentation, however the puzzles and exploration aren’t particularly gripping. The game is an incredibly casual experience which almost feels mismatched for the 3DS especially when there isn’t exactly a shortage of these types of games still being released on the DSi. In the end it’s difficult to imagine players looking for a challenge are going to find much new here.
Sherlock, or just lock (it away)?